You might not remember the old Tammy Wynette song where she sings in her best Mississippi accent D-I-V-O-R-C-E. Ironically she also sang “Stand by your man” but that’s not the point. That song was playing in my mind when I was thinking about today’s gratitude post. You may think it’s strange to be grateful for something that’s generally viewed in such a negative light but I would argue that there is a blessing in there for all of us involved. Today is my dear former husband’s birthday so I thought it would be fitting to cover this today.
You see, we are divorced, quite happily in fact. I am not grateful that we had to go through that process or subject Madeline to the consequences. But, I often joke that while I can’t write a book about how to have a happy marriage I can write a book about how to have a happy divorce.
My ex-husband is a good person, a good dad and generally agreeable. When I hear stories others share about the demise of their marriages and the inability of the family to be civil I do puff up my chest a bit with some pride for my own dysfunctional clan. And I also hurt for those people because I know there’s a better way. We aren’t perfect by any means, but we all try really, really hard and we’re still working on it.
We still do events together. And I mean ALL of us. It’s not uncommon for Madeline to have a cheering section of ten or more at her various events, both sides represented. We don’t have to pick and choose who gets to attend what because we long ago agreed that everyone can either get along or stay home. And we’re all so invested in Madeline’s happiness, success and normalcy that none of us wants to stay away. So we all go. Last week, for instance, we all did Halloween together. And that’s what we always do. I cook dinner, everyone comes to eat, then we all tromp around the neighborhood together. When people hear about this they comment that it’s odd and what a kind person I must be. But that’s not really the case. It’s not odd to us because that’s what we’ve always done and I do it out of the selfish place in my heart that knows that you can never have too many people love you.
That’s been my mantra all along. When my ex-husband gets serious with a girlfriend I am thankful for her and the new affection she brings to Madeline’s world. I think time with any grandma is a special time to be treasured. So I am grateful when my former mother-in-law offers to get her off the bus or take her shopping. I want her to make fun memories with her dad. And we work hard to share any milestones with each other. We both snap photos with our camera phones for the absent parent. When she rode her bike without training wheels for the first time a few weeks ago they called me to let me know. I wasn’t sad that I wasn’t there, I was happy she could share that moment with her dad.
Now I don’t want this to sound too Pollyanna. It’s not like we all skip through the streets holding hands and singing. Of course we have disagreements. So do parents who are married. Of course I sometimes want to wring his neck. But I feel that way about most of the world at some point. I dare say if you have a spouse, roommate, family member or coworker that you have to deal with on a regular basis you probably get pissy with them from time to time. It’s normal. But we’re not at each other all the time and we certainly don’t air our frustrations in front of Madeline. We save those for the phone and email like any other good parents!
These things are able to happen because my ex-husband and I agree on one thing. Madeline is our priority and no petty squabbles supersede that being the center of our beliefs. What’s good for Madeline is good for all of us. I know this set-up has caused problems with my relationships at times and I’m certain it has for him as well. There is often uncertainty or jealousy that comes from such a unique relationship. But I think the benefits of seeing us being kind and friendly to one another and knowing that no matter what she comes first will make her a better, happier grown up who has some serious conflict resolution skills.